Charity event set to move to Norfolk

ONE of north Suffolk's most prestigious charity events is being held in Norfolk this year after organisers failed to reach an agreement over rent payments with the Australian Earl of Stradbroke.

ONE of north Suffolk's most prestigious charity events is being held in Norfolk this year after organisers failed to reach an agreement over rent payments with the Australian Earl of Stradbroke.

The Earl, who likes to be known as Keith, has allowed the Henham Steam Rally to be held on his Henham Estate, between Halesworth and Southwold, for the past 28 years.

On an earlier occasion when rent charges could not be agreed the rally was held at Sibton Park, near Yoxford, but returned to Henham the following year.

Two years ago the event, which draws thousands of visitors over two days and raises money for local charities, was switched to arable land at nearby Brampton, because of foot-and-mouth restrictions.

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Last year the rally was able to move back to Henham and was one of the most successful ever.

However, following a breakdown in negotiations between rally organisers and the Earl, the event will be held at the Royal Norfolk Showground over the weekend of September 20 and 21.

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Earlier this year rally organisers announced that a new agreement had been reached with the Earl on terms that were acceptable to both parties.

"Subsequent changes to those terms meant that the viability of the event and its aim of supporting charities could be jeopardised," said a rally spokesman.

The rally committee acknowledged the Earl's past generosity in allowing them to have the use of the park on such favourable terms that they recognise as having helped considerably with the size of donations they have been able to make to charities each year.

"Last year was one of our most successful rallies ever so we are naturally disappointed to have to move away from this area," said the rally spokesman.

"On the other hand the change of venue will give us a bigger catchment area and should attract new entries from owners of vintage vehicles who normally don't make it to Henham," he added.

The change of venue will mean extra work for the many volunteers who give up their time to help raise money for north Suffolk charities.

"The switch will create difficulties for our many helpers who all live in the north Suffolk area but we decided that we wanted the event to go ahead this year and are prepared for this," said the spokesman.

The switch to the Royal Norfolk Showground is likely to be a one-off change.

Already rally organisers are looking for a suitable alternative venue for the rally in north Suffolk and are believed to be close to concluding negotiations on a site that will be available from 2004.

Earlier this year the north Suffolk charity tractor run normally held at Henham Park was moved to nearby Wenhaston because the Earl's charges had increased.

The Earl, who lives in Australia, is determined to make the Suffolk estate pay for itself.

His son, the hon Henham Rous, is currently working on the estate with fellow Australian manager Sean O'Neill, in a bid to make Henham Park self-sufficient.

"We are sad and disappointed that we could not come to an agreement with the steam rally organisers this year," said Henham.

"However, next year is another matter and we hope that the steam rally will be able to return to the park.

"In the meantime I would like to wish the rally every success in 2003 when it is held at the Royal Norfolk Showground," he said.

Henham Steam Rally organisers are keen to hear from those wishing to take advantage of this year's event for trade, craft and charity stands.

Details are available by telephoning 01502 578771.

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